The snow and the cold are officially here! Let’s look at the foods that are in season in the winter and the health benefits that they provide.
What Does “In Season” Mean?
Fruits and vegetables that are in season are those that are picked fresh, at their peak of being ripe, close to where you live. See this article to learn more about what eating in season means.
Foods in Season During the Winter and Their Health Benefits
In the Midwest region we tend to eat more root vegetables and warming, comforting foods. I am from Illinois, and foods that are in season in the winter by us are very limited. The short list includes chicories, mushrooms, sprouts, endive, radicchio, rapini, salsify, and shallots. Here, I highlight some of the foods that are in season during the winter across all regions.
Parsnip is a root vegetable that is related to carrots. The nutrients they boast includes fiber, folate, vitamin C and potassium. Based on 1/2 cup serving parsnips provide over 12 gm carbohydrate, 2 gm fiber, almost 250 mg potassium, over 11 mg vitamin C, and 44 mcg folate.
Parsnips have a sweet flavor, similar to carrots. They go great in soups or stews, but they are also good when roasted in the oven.
Swiss Chard is a leafy green vegetable that is related to spinach. I can go on and on about what makes swiss chard so healthy and nutrient dense. This one requires a list. 1 cup chopped and boiled swiss char provides the following:
Vitamin K- 572 mcg
Folate- 15.8 mcg
Vitamin C- 31.5 mg
Potassium- 961 mg
Phosphorus- 57.8 mg
Antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin- 19,200 mcg
Carotene antioxidants- 6,468 mcg
Swiss chard can be eaten raw in salad and it is best when mixed with other greens because it has a bitter taste. It can also be added to soups after they are done being cooked. Swiss chard is good in casseroles and quiches, or sauteed in a pan with olive oil, garlic and a light salting.
I love onions and I put them in almost every savory dish that I cook! When you add one small onion to a recipe it adds 4 mg choline, 7 mg magnesium, 13 mcg folate, 16 mg calcium, 20 mg phosphorus and 102 mg potassium.
Winter squash refers to several types of squash including pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash, delicata, buttercup, spaghetti squash, hubbard and carnival squash. The variety of winter squash that is available is a beautiful thing, literally. You may even use some of them to decorate your front porch or kitchen table.
Winter squash provides a lot of nutrition. Per every cup of baked and cubed squash you will get 18 gm carbohydrate, almost 6 gm fiber, 45 mg calcium, almost 27 mg magnesium, 39 mg phosphorus, 494 mg potassium, 41 mcg folate, about 22 mg choline, 535 mcg vitamin A and 9 mcg vitamin K. Antioxidants provided by winter squash includes 7,120 mcg carotenes and 2,910 mcg lutein and zeaxanthin.
If you are not familiar with cooking winter squash I encourage you to experiment with different recipes. Basic roasted squash can be a great place to start. Roasting squash until tender and topping with a butter spread and a light salting makes for a delicious side dish. For a sweeter version you can add cinnamon and brown sugar on top, yum!
Pineapple is grown in Hawaii, but I am thankful we can enjoy it here in the continental states too! One cup of pineapple chunks provides almost 22 gm carbohydrate, 2 gm fiber, 21 mg calcium, 20 mg magnesium, 13 mg phosphorus, 180 mg potassium, 79 mg vitamin C, 30 mcg folate, and 9 mg choline. Pineapple is so good on its own, but is also great in mixed fruit salads, smoothies and even pairs well with some savory dishes.
I always enjoy eating kiwi, which is typically grown in California. One kiwi fruit provides about 11 gm carbohydrates, over 2 gm fiber, 26 mg calcium, 12 mg magnesium, 148 mg potassium, 56 mg vitamin C, about 20 mcg folate, 30 mcg vitamin K, and almost 6 mg choline. Antioxidants found in one kiwi include 39 mcg beta carotene and 92 mcg lutein and zeaxthanin.
The juice of one lemon provides almost 3 mg calcium and magnesium, about 4 mg phosphorus, 49 mg potassium, about 19 mg vitamin C and 10 mcg folate. Fresh squeezed lemon juice is so versatile. Lemon goes great in salad dressings, smoothies, and dips like guacamole. It also goes great on top of baked or grilled fish. And don’t forget the most basic yet enjoyable way to use a lemon, squeeze some in your ice water for an extra burst of nutrition and flavor while you hydrate!
Pears are not just a fall treat. A medium pear will provide 27 gm carbohydrate, about 5 gm insoluble fiber, 14 mg calcium, 10 mg magnesium, about 18 mg phosphorus, 155 mg potassium, almost 8 mg vitamin C, about 11 mcg folate, and 7 mcg vitamin K. Pears also contain 85 mcg of antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.
Check out More Foods in Season During the Winter
To see which foods are in season by you during the winter check out this Seasonal Food Guide. I hope this encourages you to try new foods this winter!